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Eberly News Blog

6 Jun
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The academic school year ends, but students in the Eberly College never stop learning.

Each summer, many students choose to brighten their futures and expand their education by completing summer internships.

These are their stories.


Story by Mike Atkinson
Image by National Geographic


Holly Purpura, Senior
Hometown: Wheeling, West Virginia
Majors: Geography, Political Science
How she’s spending her summer: Interning with the National Geographic Network of Alliances for Geographic Education

What was it like growing up in Wheeling?

Wheeling is a beautiful, historic city nestled within the Ohio Valley. Living in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, I could easily visit Pennsylvania and Ohio within a matter of minutes.

I had a great childhood with great memories of sled riding on the golf courses of Oglebay Park in the winter and long summer evenings listening to music at the Wheeling Waterfront.

Are there any particular experiences or interesting stories about growing up there you could share?

I was incredibly clumsy growing up and was constantly getting in accidents. Between the ages of three and seven, I broke both of my arms twice. I broke my left arm in two places at the age of seven by merely tripping!

What led you to WVU?

I chose to attend WVU for financial reasons. I grew up in a lower middle class family, and my parents could not afford to contribute to my education. Because of this, studying within West Virginia was my only option. WVU is one of the best universities within the state, and they offered the programs I wanted to study.

And how did you know WVU was right for you? once you were here?

Once at WVU, I knew that I made the right decision. During my time at WVU, I have been able to experience so many amazing opportunities.

Can you share a few experiences you’ve had while you were at WVU? Maybe something you’ll never forget that happened at WVU?

Last spring, I decided to take the service-dog training course. Volunteering with Hearts of Gold Service Dogs and training Baxter, a golden retriever who was 6 months old when I began training him, was a rewarding and memorable experience.

How did you hear about your internship?

One of my professors, Dr. Gregory Elmes, advertised the internship application for the National Geographic Geography Intern Program on the WVU Geography department’s listserv.

What will you be doing at this internship?

This past semester, I interned with the National Geographic Network of Alliances for Geographic Education. This grassroots organization headed out of National Geographic promotes geography education in schools K-12 across the United States. While the official dates of my internship ended in April, I have been kept on at National Geographic as a Grants Assistant until the beginning of June.

What do you hope to accomplish with this internship?

My time at National Geographic has been utterly unforgettable. Work is never predictable. I have worked on everything from maps that my supervisors have used for board meetings to documenting data in Excel. I have met individuals from all over the world who are involved in absolutely amazing work.

What are your career goals? What do you want to do after you graduate?

After I graduate, I hope to eventually continue my education in graduate school. I would love to one day work with international development and aspire to work for the United Nations or another intergovernmental organization.

How will this internship help you achieve those goals?

Working for National Geographic has introduced me to many individuals and has provided me with skills that will be useful in any career.

Do you have a favorite professor at WVU?

Of the many great professors I have had at WVU, it is extremely difficult to choose a favorite. Dr. David Hauser of the Political Science department and Dr. Karen Culcasi of the Geography department are two professors who taught me so much during my time at WVU.

Do you have any experiences from their class that you can share?

With Dr. Culcasi’s Geography of the Arab World course, I traveled to Jordan and Dubai, U.A.E. During this unforgettable trip, I discovered a passion for working with humanitarian issues and in international development.

What would you say was your favorite class?

I really loved Dr. Culcasi’s Geography of the Arab World course. Two other memorable courses I have taken are International Law taught by Dr. Gregory Noone and Comparative Legal Systems taught by Dr. John Kilwein.

Take Five with Holly

What do you like to do in your free time?

Free time? What is that? Whenever I get the chance, I am an avid reader and I love to hike.

Do you have any pets?

Back home in Wheeling, my childhood cat Simba is 17 years old and as rambunctious as he was when he was younger. He still plays with our 2-year-old Shih Tzu mix.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

I would say strawberry ice cream is my favorite. I don’t discriminate against ice cream flavors, though.

What is the funniest thing you’ve seen at WVU?

When visiting Petra in Jordan on a WVU trip, four of my friends and I decided to ride camels. What we thought was going to be a slow and peaceful camel ride turned chaotic when the camel handlers decided to show off for us girls by getting the camels to run.

When running, we encountered a large group of British tourists who unintentionally made a human blockade between the two canyon walls. As they scurried out of the way to avoid the running camels, one older British man jokingly yelled, “Typical women drivers.”

What’s one thing you’ll never forget about WVU?

I will always remember hiking at Coopers Rock and cheering in the student section during WVU football games.

Where is your favorite place in Morgantown, or at WVU?

I absolutely love the Brew Pub (Morgantown Brewing Company), especially on their Bluegrass Night.

What is one thing you’ve never done at WVU that you’d like to do?

During high school, I played the clarinet in the Wheeling Park High School Band. While I still occasionally play recreationally, I knew that I would not have the time to play for the WVU Marching Band. This is one thing that I wish I would have had the chance to do.

Anything else you’d like to say?

While I was given the option to remain at National Geographic until later in the summer, I will leave in early June in order to study abroad with the WVU Summer London Internship program.

With this program, I will intern with an organization in the heart of London for half of the week, and the other half of the week I will be studying in London with a WVU faculty-led course. My time abroad will be partially funded by the Gilman Scholarship, and I am incredibly excited to study and work in London.

Want to be featured in our summer series? Email mike.atkinson@mail.wvu.edu with details about your internship.

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